erez crossing 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Physicians for Human Rights - Israel (PHR) announced on Sunday that the army has allowed six patients suffering from cancer and other serious illnesses to enter Israel as a result of pressure exerted by the organization and human rights groups abroad.
On October 12, The Jerusalem Post reported that the six had been barred from entering Israel for "security reasons." They included a 16-year-old girl and two women in their early twenties. One of the women, Inas al-Najar, a mother of two suffering from recurring bone cancer, said she had been turned away from the Erez border crossing after refusing demands by an Israel Security Authority (ISA) official to serve as an informant.
PHR spokeswoman Miri Weingarten said the restrictions on the six patients had been lifted following "concerted pressure and extensive exposure in local and international media."
On Saturday, the US-based Human Rights Watch organization issued a three-page report charging that Israel was "blocking, delaying and harassing people with emergency medical problems who need to leave the Gaza Strip for urgent care."
Meanwhile, PHR charged that despite claims by Israeli authorities that the current restrictions on passage via the Gaza border crossings were not connected to the government's recent declaration of Gaza as a hostile territory, "realities on the ground suggest otherwise."
"Since mid-September," PHR charged, "a further worsening in Israeli policies at the Erez checkpoint has been noted, in addition to the overall deterioration in policies recorded since June 2007 [when Hamas routed Fatah and took full control of the Gaza Strip.]"
PHR wrote that the number of rejections on security grounds by Israeli authorities of requests for permits to enter Israel for medical treatment has risen since July. Between July and September, PHR received 138 appeals for help by Palestinians whose requests had been rejected, compared with 66 between March and May. Of the 138 cases, the army changed its mind regarding 52 after PHR intervention, while five patients died awaiting permits or after long delays.
PHR also charged that matters took a turn for the worse after the army refused passage to the six patients mentioned above, all suffering life-threatening illnesses, who were refused entry in early October.
Although the six were eventually given permits, two others, one suffering from cancer and the other from severe complications from a gunshot wound to the kidneys, were still waiting for a response to their request, while a 17-year-old girl suffering from uterine cancer had been granted entry but was still waiting for the permit.
In seeking a response from Israeli authorities regarding the PHR allegations, The Jerusalem Post turned to the IDF Spokesman's Office.
An official there referred this reporter to the spokesman for the Coordinator of Activities in Judea and Samaria. He in turn suggested speaking to the spokesman for IDF Southern Command, who referred the reporter back to the IDF Spokesman's Office.